At a recent business meeting, one of the participants complained, “I’ve never seen so much indecision. Our customers just won’t pull the trigger. They get right up to the point of buying then back away, putting off the buying decision until next month or next quarter or longer.” That drew a lot of “me too” responses around the room, so it became a lengthy discussion topic. Why is this happening?
In these tough economic times, with budgets screwed down to the last dime, people are fearful. One poor buying decision could shake the whole organization and may cost jobs . . . including the job of the person who made the poor choice. So buyers are looking for safety . . . assurances that the product will perform as promised, that the expected ROI will be achieved, or that the anticipated cost savings will be realized. That’s not new. Sales people have always had to convince skeptical buyers that their product or service will perform as advertised. It’s the degree that has changed . . . buyers no longer want assurances, they want guarantees. They want their buying decisions to be bullet proof, and until they are, those decisions will be delayed, delayed, delayed.
So we need to make it “safe” for our customers to buy from us. How do we do that? The answer is probably different for every business, but the best example of an industry that really bent over backwards to attract skittish buyers is the auto industry. People weren’t even coming into showrooms because they were afraid of losing their jobs and of being saddled with big car payments. So what did some car companies do to make it “safe” to buy? They said, “No problem. If you lose your job, you can give us the car back.” Pretty radical stuff.
Iron clad guarantees of specific outcomes can be difficult if not impossible. There are too many variables that are outside the control of the seller. So focus on those things that are under your control and that you can guarantee. For instance, you may not be able to guarantee that a market research assignment will deliver the answers the client hopes for, but you can guarantee that you will assign your best, most senior researcher to the project, and that the answers will be accurate, validated, and above reproach. You can also guarantee the methodology that will be used to conduct the research and the controls that are in place to assure the quality of the data.
Traditionally, we probe buyers to discover where their pain is. Now it’s a little different. Now we also have to probe to discover where their fear is and find ways to overcome it. The success of our sales effort depends on it.